Is Day Care Bad For Your Kids Versus Parenting? Psychologists Say Yes

Is day care safe for my baby?

So you're wondering whether it's OK to send your kids to day care so you can go to work and make more money. It's a common dilemma since the cost of living is so high largely due to a surge in home prices and everything else that's needed to survive and thrive.

If you must work to provide for your family, then day care is likely the only option unless you have grandparents or relatives willing to help. But is day care bad for your kids versus being a full-time parent? Not necessarily.

Day care is also a good option if you have a terrible home environment full of hate, neglect, drugs, and violence.

But if you have a terrible home environment for children, it's likely you can't comfortable afford daycare, which can regularly run between $1,000 – $3,000 a month.

If you have a normal household with at least one loving parent who has read all the baby books, loves their child dearly, and is willing to put in the time to be a great parent, then daycare is a terrible choice.

Fact: Spending more time caring for your own child is better than spending less time caring for your child.

Fact: Caring for your child is better than letting a stranger care for your child.

Fact: Nobody will care for your child more than you.

Fact: It doesn't make sense to have a child if you don't want to take care of your child.

But What Does The Research Say?

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care has an ongoing $100 million survey of 1,100 children. It's the largest and most rigorous examination of day care in history, taking into account family income and the quality of day care.

Evidence from the study shows the more time in child care of any kind or quality, the more aggressive the child. Children in full-time day care were close to three times more likely to show behavior problems than those cared for by their mothers at home.

The research also shows that 83 percent of children who spend 10 to 30 hours in day care did not show higher levels of aggression. Therefore, if you must do day care, limit the hours to less than 30 hours, otherwise the percentage chance of behavioral problems rises.

Think about the trauma a child feels after stumbling and hitting her head on the floor. She cries and looks up to find mama, but mama is nowhere to be found for another nine hours. Naturally, she will learn to be more angry and distrust her parents and the people responsible for taking care of her.

First Five Years Of A Child's Life Is The Most Precious

Any parent who has raised a child knows how precarious the first several years of life is. From the initial stages of rolling over, to sitting up, to crawling, to walking like a drunken sailor. Accidents will inevitably happen to all babies and toddlers as they try to learn fine and gross motor skills.

Having an employee who makes slightly more than minimum wage take care of your child's most important developmental years is suboptimal.

Kids in day care for more than 30 hours have been observed to be more frequent in hitting other children and caregivers, arguing, cheating, destroying of objects and demanding excessive attention. These traits last well into elementary school.

According to the NICD, bad behavior earlier on translates to even more troublesome behavior as kids grow older. Do you really want to have a child at higher risk of doing drugs, getting suspended, and less ambitious simply because you decided not to parent your children during their initial years before school? Of course not. Again, these are the results from the NICD's longitudinal study, and not my words.

Here are the number of hours in day care and the resulting percentage of kids who exhibit bad behavior:

Less than 10 hours: 10 percent.

10 to 30 hours: 17 percent.

More than 45 hours: then 26 percent.

So yes, your child might be one of the 74 percent who don't exhibit bad behavior, but why risk it? The average amount of time a parent spends with their child is very low. Parents should try to spend more time with their children, not less.

Avoid Extensive Day Care If You Can

Having a baby to then have someone take care of it for years isn't ideal. It would be one thing if you knew day care didn't cause potential long term psychological harm. But studies do show that such behavioral problems arise due to long hours of neglect.

You only have to sacrifice your career for five years at most since all kids in America go to kindergarten by then. If you plan to send your kids to pre-school, children can start in some places as early as two, but usually three years old.

Kids deserve better. Don't sacrifice your kids future for your desire for money and prestige. You've only got one chance to raise your kids the best way possible – caring for them yourself. Don't screw it up. There's always another dollar to be made, but never another second of time to create.

If you must send your kid(s) to day care, limit their exposure to 30 hours a week or less. There are plenty of part-time or online freelance work you can do from home during off hours if your household needs to earn extra money to survive.

Related posts about parenting and day care:

A Day In The Life Of Two Stay At Home Parents

How To Survive The Pressure As The Sole Income Earning Parent

Hiring An Au Pair: The Costs And Benefits

Sorry Working Moms, Daycare Is Bad For Your Kids

About the Author: Sam is a stay at home dad. He decided to give up his career in banking for five years in order to spend as much time with his boy as possible before he goes to kindergarten. was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites today with over 1.5 million organic pageviews a month. Financial Samurai has been featured in top publications such as the LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. 

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